Uptown top ranking: which city leads on Space for Cycling?

Newcastle's Civic Ride, Sept 2014. With CTC Ambassador and Newcycling Patron Christian Wolmar and Cllr Nick Forbes (Council Leader). Photo by Shannon Robalino
CTC published its league table of political support for cycling in eight English cities on 17 November. Here we analyse the results.

"Will you support Space for Cycling in your area and seek the funding needed to make it happen?"  That's the question asked in over 15,000 messages to councillors by members of the public over the last 6 months as part of the national Space for Cycling campaign.  With over 600 councillors now signed up, we take a look at which local authorities in eight English cities are backing the call and why.

"We have kindly asked, sometimes hassled, always engaged and strongly lobbied our policy makers," explains Katya Leyendecker, from the Newcastle Cycling Campaign

With 52 out of 78 councillors supporting Space for Cycling (67%) Newcastle has reason to celebrate. Since their inception in 2010, the local campaign group has used multiple tactics to put cycling firmly on the council's radar, including infrastructure bike 'safaris', petitions, manifestos and mass rides.  When the Space for Cycling campaign took off this year, Newcastle's councillors were already well attuned to the benefits of cycling.

The English Core Cities ranked here (Newcastle, Greater Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield) represent the eight largest non-London city economies.  All of them also have active cycle campaign groups, some newer than others. Jonathan Fingland, from the Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign (GMCC) commented on this relationship, "The Core Cities group wants to ensure people can sustainably access work, education, leisure, and the shops and services they need. GMCC supports these aims and agrees that we should enhance the attractiveness of our urban centres, to benefit the public health and economy of our city region."

Here's how the eight cities tallied up on the morning of 18 November 2014:

League Table

1.       Newcastle: 67% of councillors signed up
2.       Manchester: 41%
3.       Nottingham: 31%
4.       Bristol: 26%
5.       Birmingham: 16%
6.       Leeds: 16%
7.       Liverpool: 12%
8.       Sheffield: 11%

The percentages are worked out by number of councillors who have signed up to Space for Cycling in each highway authority.  Click here to see a map of all supportive councillors.

The councillor sign up rate both reflects the political willingness of local authorities to commit to cycling as well how much communication about the campaign they have received from local cyclists.  CTC has asked its 70,000 members to write to councillors, but also worked closely with Cyclenation campaign groups around the country to amplify and customise the message to the local context.  In areas where CTC has more members and an active campaign group, councillors have felt the pressure to back cycling.  The reverse has also been true.  Political parties vying for votes have had to respond accordingly. 

CTC recognises the role of local cycle campaigning in scrutinising local councils and promoting cycling and its many benefits.   For this reason, we have run a series of training sessions to support the growth in grassroots cycle campaigning in Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield, Newcastle, Manchester, Llandudno and Bristol - with two more sessions planned for the home counties (hosted in London) and Scotland (dates tbc).

Supportive statements from councillors however, are very different from improved cycling conditions on the ground.  Bristol may be fourth in this ranking but it is well recognised as being ahead of the curve in terms of campaigning and planned cycling provision in the city.  Meanwhile, Nottingham City Council are now pressing ahead with an ambitious £6 million investment programme, using much of the infrastructure criteria from our 'Guides for Local Decision Makers'.  These are encouraging examples. Nonetheless, we're mindful of the limits of simply securing promises from politicians.  As Katja Leyendecker, "The question now of course is how this political will and support is going to be translated into any sort of action and we'll keep a keen eye on that." 

Ask your councillor to back the call for safe space for cycling at www.space4cycling.org.uk.

Councillors can indicate their views at www.space4cycling.org.uk/councillors


Media Coverage:

Bristol Evening Post: A quarter of councillors in Bristol back campaign to make cycling safer
Nottingham Post: Nottingham is in top three for cycling
Yorkshire Evening Post: Leeds lagging behind in an appetite to become a cycling city
Liverpool Echo: Liverpool ranked seventh out of eight in league table of cycle-friendly cities
The Star: Anger from Sheffield Council after being ranked bottom for supporting cyclists
Sheffield Telegraph: Council under pressure but insists it is on the right track